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Three simple hostels dedicated to helping people acquire a greater knowledge and respect for the islands are to re-open for the summer, it was announced yesterday (Thursday 30 June).

The unexpected announcement means that Gatliff Trust Hostels at Berneray, Howmore in South Uist and Rhenigidale in North Harris will reopen today (Friday), offering a basic standard of shared accommodation at a reasonable price.

The hostels, in scenic locations, have always been especially appreciated by walkers, cyclists and people on limited budgets.

Gatliff Trust’s website says: “The trust is dedicated to running Berneray, Howmore and Rhenigidale hostels, in partnership with islanders, to a sound basic standard.

“Our goal is to provide hostellers with the opportunity to stay a while to get to know, and maybe come to love, the unique culture and natural environment of the islands.”

After a complete Covid shutdown over the past two years, yesterday’s announcement came as a surprise. The former Garenin hostel has been permanently closed since a lease expired in 2011 and there were concerns that other sites would not reopen.

But today the chair of trustees, Peter Clarke, said: “It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce that all our hostels will re-open for the night of 1 July 2022.  Thank you for your forbearance whilst we were closed.

“Sadly, Covid has not gone away, so please exercise caution in the hostel. We ask you to respect the personal space of other hostellers and, if you have tested positive for Covid or if you are exhibiting any of the symptoms, please do not enter this building. 

“These caveats are designed to help hostellers, our wardens and the communities in which we operate to stay safe.”

Gatliff’s hostel at East Beach Berneray has 21 beds in shared rooms and is renowned for the peace and tranquility to be found at its beachside location, and for its community spirit.

At Howmore in South Uist there are 16 beds in three shared rooms. The hostel lies in a conservation area and its accommodation building is thatched.

Rhenigidale is sited high in the North Harris hills, surrounded by croft land with views over the Minch to northern Skye. It offers tranquillity, a rugged environment and proximity to the Clisham for hillwalkers and climbers. It has 12 beds in three shared rooms.

All three are described as ‘simple hostels providing basic facilities for walkers and cyclists – not a luxury hostel.’ No advanced bookings are taken and availability cannot be predicted, but no-one is ever turned away – there is camping space around each hostel.

There are local wardens at each site, with details provided on the website at

Pictures show the Gatliff hostels at Berneray and Rhenigidale (top) and the blend of ancient and modern in the hostel kitchen at Howmore.